Cold Snap is Jones’s second collection of stories, a follow-up to his acclaimed debut The Pugilist at Rest. Cold Snap borrows some of the characters from his earlier collection, and like The Pugilist, many of its own stories are interconnected, both in narrative and thematically. Many stories feature diabetes, expat medical aid workers in Africa, doctors, and the AIDS epidemic, among others. Boxing, Vietnam, and catastrophic mental illness are still present, but I don’t think Jones could publish a book without a little of that.
These stories are just as compelling as his first collection, visceral and full of emotion. I must confess that I read this collection a bit faster than his first, devouring most of it in less than a day -while I was fighting off bronchitis, on top of it all. I wish I’d let the reading stretch out a little longer, but I’m certain I’ll return to the stories I really enjoyed again this year. I loved half the stories, and the ones that weren’t my favorite I’d still consider quite good. Jones’s diversity is impressive, but it’s the source of my only complaint: the story “Rocketfire Red”. It’s written in a dense Australian dialect that is technically superb, but feels more like a technical exercise despite it’s otherwise engaging plot and great prose. It feels like Jones’s got lost in the craft after reading Trainspotting. Still, 9/10 is remarkable.
Cold Snap must be compared to The Pugilist, but it’s a hard comparison to make. I’m enjoying reading his work in the order of publication and would recommend it to anyone looking to read Jones’s work. Sophomore efforts are always tricky and it comes down to expectations. Was I hoping for Cold Snap to be “just as good” at the preceding collection? To improve on it? Just to not suck so I can enjoy a voice I’m already comfortable with?
Recommendation: Buy it and read it. It’s good. It’s not quite as good as The Pugilist at Rest, but that’s a damn high bar and Cold Snap is no sophomore slump.